IWC presents on Puri Puri Aboriginal Cultural and Spiritual Nuances

At the 12th Biennial Asia Pacific International Mental Health Conference on "Recovered Futures” held in Brisbane from 24-26 October, IWC Director and Chaplain Cheri Yavu-Kama-Harathunian and Corporate Coordination team member Shani Haworth (pictured) presented for the first time in a public arena a paper titled "Puri Puri Aboriginal Cultural and Spiritual Nuances Relevant to Mental Health Understanding – A Cultural Perspective for Consideration”.


"The presentation exposed a significant cultural phenomena that, although not taboo, is rarely spoken about outside of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island world,” said Aunty Cheri.  "The response to the presentation was overwhelming and the questions asked by delegates were profound.”


The issue was raised at the conference because of the similarities in behavioural and cognitive manifestation of the drug Ice and other mental health conditions, she said.


"Aboriginal health professionals’ wisdom and knowledge  has for too long been ignored by mainstream professionals where assessment tools used for diagnosing mental health is juxtapositional to what mental health experiences are for  many Aboriginal and Islander clients,” said Aunty Cheri.


"Given that the tools used are based in a Western Medical Model Paradigm, the spiritual malaise and the cultural nuances held in the clients’ stories are ignored, often leading to a misdiagnosis.”


Ms Haworth said: "It was such a privilege to tell the story of a person who had experienced being puried and misdiagnosed.  Aunty Cheri and I were able to share this person’s story with their consent.


"We did not realise that it would be of such interest to an international audience.  They absorbed every word and wanted to learn as much as they could about this cultural and spiritual phenomena.” 


Aunty Cheri said: "The delegates deeply appreciated the presentation and acknowledged that the learnings from the presentation would be beneficial to their current practice. Australian health professionals who were present articulated that there was a significant gap in their learnings around mental health experience that traumatise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people intergenerationally.


"They acknowledged that they needed more assistance from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners to better understand and assess mental health conditions.”


IWC is a non-government, Aboriginal community-controlled and charitable organisation that provides health, wellbeing, community and family services across the Wide Bay / Burnett.